The entire training group of nearly 30 people was divided into small groups according to language skills. In my group, there are five trainees and we live outside of Antigua. We meet for Spanish class every day, rotating from home to home. Another trainee, Patricia, also lives in our area but has one-to-one classes with her instructor, Oscar. Everyone loves Patricia because her heart is wide open like the sky, she has an amazing laugh, and she’s really positive. She’s also got a lot of great medical wisdom, having had a long career as a nurse. A couple of days ago, our group went to surprise Patricia with a visit and gift for her birthday. Her host mom, Lupe, had a beautiful cake made for her, too.
Patricia was overwhelmed with joy to see us since she’d been studying alone with Oscar for several days and didn’t really know where the rest of us were living.
[Our group (2 missing from photo), celebrating Pat’s birthday!]
Next Saturday, we get to have more cake for her at when we all meet at the Peace Corps offices for training.
Our Spanish language facilitator is Chepe, a man with a great sense of humor. He feels like an old friend already! Today he surprised us with a field trip to Antigua to learn how to shop in the mercado. At one point, I got a little lost from the group (yep, I blinked and they were gone!). I wasn’t worried but I didn’t want to be THAT person that holds the group up and makes them miss the bus. Luckily I found them quickly!
[Photo: Chepe, our language teacher.]
The oldest part of Antigua is a world heritage UNESCO site. The streets are filled with colonial buildings and churches. The city itself is surrounded by volcanos. Yep, it’s pretty gorgeous.
Arriving home after our return home from Antigua, I relaxed on my family’s patio near their dogs and birds. I studied Spanish while intermittently talking to the dogs. I love those dogs though I will not really get too close to them since they are used as guard dogs and bark when I get too close.
Suddenly I heard a loud voice yelling something in the street, followed by a chorus of voices singing a religious song that my spiritual teacher, Madre Sarita, (now deceased) used to sing. I ran to open the door that borders the street and saw over a hundred people dressed in black, walking by in a procession. They were coming from down the hill, on their way up the street and around the corner to the cemetery next to the Catholic Church. Don Jose told me that a white casket signifies the death of a child. Doña Irma told me that the child was from a neighboring community so they did not know the family.
Doña Irma is sick with a cold so she retired early while I went to catch up with Don Jose at evening mass. On the way I saw brightly colored booths with food and toys for sale in preparation for another ferria for this weekend. There was also a DJ blasting music in the plaza which faced the open doors of the church. It was nearly impossible to hear the priest with all that music and during one song I had to hold my leg down from bouncing to the beat.
Each day has been so beautiful with new experiences and great people. Now in class, we are beginning to focus on the Peace Corps’ approach to development work and specific skills for our work with the Healthy Schools Project and Youth in Development. It’s a lot to keep up with, all the information and studying Spanish. It’s also the gift of a lifetime.